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Report: Killers use honor as excuse for leniency in femicide cases

Sept. 6, 2014 1:39 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 6, 2014 5:08 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Despite a 2011 decision by Abbas to end the practice, the director of a major Palestinian forensic institute told Ma'an in a recent interview that killers were receiving leniency by claiming reasons of "honor" in the slaying deaths of young women.

Dr. Sabir al-Aloul, director of Al-Quds University's Institute of Forensic Medicine, said that examinations of the bodies of the vast majority of women who were slain by family members in so-called "honor crimes" showed no signs of previous sexual activity.

"It seems the killers use family honor as a pretext to benefit from an article in the Palestinian laws that suggests leniency for men who kill to protect their family honor," al-Aloul said.

In 2011, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas ordered a legal amendment to end leniency in courts for men who kill women from their families under the pretext that they "dishonored" their families, presumably through sexual activity.

Abbas' announcement was made by his secretary-general al-Tayyib Abd al-Rahim during a live talk show on satellite channel Palestine TV to discuss the murder of 20-year-old university student Ayah Barad'iyya from the southern West Bank town of Surif by her uncle.

However, legal experts say Abbas' move was not enough to prevent the killing of women over issues of so-called family "honor." They say that there are other gaps in the law through which killers have managed to gain leniency by claiming reasons of honor.

In February, PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi condemned the use of the term "honor killings" to refer to forms of domestic violence against women, stressing: "The woman is not an emblem of honor for the man or her family; she is an equal member of society.

"The categorization of such crimes under misleading labels constitutes the exploitation of women, and in turn, it safeguards the offenders and promotes more crimes of this nature," she added.

Campaigners have urged the adoption of the term femicide to refer to violence perpetrated by partners or relatives of a woman, encompassing primarily lethal forms of domestic violence.

The total number of victims of "femicide" in the West Bank and Gaza in 2013 amounted to 28.
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